Baseball is back today, with a huge MLB match-up on national television for the first game as the Washington Nationals, 2019 World Series winners, host the New York Yankees, joint-favorites to win it all in 2020 (7.08pm ET Thursday live on ESPN).
USAbetting previews this opening game and concludes with our NY Yankees vs Nats predictions against the bookies.
This game, played in an empty stadium, heralds the start of a 60-game regular season over the next few months. All other teams will be in action starting tomorrow, Friday July 24. In classic Opening Day tradition, the first game of the season will see the defending World Series champions as the ones to open up the year in baseball.
The American League East’s Yankees are expected to be a force to be reckoned with this year. One of the baseball’s top teams last season, the Yankees won the AL East for the first time since 2012 but couldn’t capture the AL pennant, losing to the Houston Astros in the ALCS. It was the second time in the past three years that New York lost to the Astros in the league’s championship series. With the Yankees failing to capture a World Series trophy last year, the team ended the decade without a championship for the first time since the 1980s.
By losing to the Astros in the ALCS, they also became the first Yankees team since the 1910s not even to play in one. That’s how good and how dominant the Yankees, a team that has won a record 27 championships, have been in their franchise history. The 2010s didn’t end the way they wanted but it’s hard to believe the 2020s will end the same way. The Yankees will win a World Series this decade and they may well do it as soon as this year.
The National League East’s Nationals enjoyed a bit of a fairytale storybook season last year as the team won their first World Series in the history of their franchise, which began with the Montreal Expos in 1969. Having won the NL East several times in the past, the Nationals had previously always failed to advance out of the divisional round of the playoffs but 2019 was different. Actually finishing second to the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings, Washington earned a wildcard bid into the postseason for the first time ever.
They almost lost in the NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers, needing the full seven games and some come-from-behind magic. Washington went on to defeat two tough opponents in the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, before advancing to the World Series where the Astros were waiting, looking to defend their crown. Fascinating enough, the series went seven games with the home team losing every one. It marked the first World Series in history where the road team won each of their games away, while losing each of their home games. This Nationals team seemed to represent a moment in time, with everything lining up in their favor. With several key players departing, it is hard to imagine they will be able to achieve the difficult repeat title win, though the team will still be a serious contender this year.
Due to the restrictions put on this season as a result of the COVID-19 virus, there will only be 60 games played by each of the league’s 30 teams. There will be a universal DH, something that would have benefitted the Nationals last year, prior to Anthony Rendon’s departure in free agency. It will certainly benefit the Yankees as they’ll turn to their explosive offense to provide an extra bat in every ballpark, not just the AL ones.
Perhaps most notably however will be in the schedules. In order to limit the amount of travel by each team, MLB has paired up its divisions in twos. The NL West and AL West will face each other, the NL Central and AL Central will face each other, and the NL East and AL East will face each other. That means that as opposed to a normal season where the Yankees and Nationals might see each other twice a year, today’s game will be the first of the only three game series set for these two powerhouses. After opening weekend, we won’t see these two going head-to-head again until a potential World Series match-up.
They say every game is important but in a 60-game season, that is even more so. In game one, the Nats will send the rebounding Max Scherzer to the mound against Yankee’s new acquisition, Gerrit Cole. It’s going to be a great pitching match-up to kick off the season as these are two of baseball’s best pitchers and they have only faced each other once before in their careers.
With 326 strikeouts and a record of 20-5, Cole finished among the top of the Cy Young voting for best pitcher in the league in 2019. Scherzer’s 2019 didn’t go nearly as well but the man is a former 3x Cy Young winner, his most recent award coming just three years ago. Both of these pitchers should be expected to put on top performances in the opener but don’t think this will necessarily be a pitching duel as a result, especially if New York’s offense has anything to say about it.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of baseball’s delayed season has been the Yankees. Originally expected to start the season with limited access to their best players as both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were likely to miss time at the beginning of the year, New York will now have full access to both home run hitters as they have reported to summer camp 100 percent healthy and ready to go. This is a terrifying prospect for any opponent as the one thing many agree on that held the Yankees back last year, was the health of their top players. Even still, the Yankees hit over 300 home runs, finishing second only to the Minnesota Twins in that category, and won 103 games en route to claiming the AL East title.
While this is a shortened season so numbers won’t be nearly as high, it would not be surprising to see the Yankees lead the MLB in home runs and other key offensive batting stats. They may well have the league’s best win-loss record too. The pairing of the NL East will be tough as the Braves, Nationals and even New York Mets are trending upward, but New York has looked great in limited games thus far and their depth looks even better than before.
Our Betting Preview’s New York Yankees vs Washington Nationals Predictions & Picks Conclusion
So, for those wanting a wager with the stateside bookmakers, we come to the New York Yankees vs Washington Nationals predictions and MLB picks verdict for USAbetting’s preview of this season-opening game today: